Friday, February 22, 2013

Internet Archbishops

"Sadly you still think your pronouncements will be accepted without question by a meek credulous herd."

-A 65-year-old former nurse, to the Archbishop of Westminster, in response to, well, a lot of things, one of which was the Archbishop's urging of followers to oppose same-sex marriage.

As I continue to blog and engage in online conversations, I think quite a bit about power- who has it, how it is bestowed, and what it is that legitimates power.

In A Song of Ice and Fire, these questions about power are recurring themes. "Power resides where men [sic] believe it resides," one character offers. In many ways, power is contextual, with the trappings of power acting as an illusion to confer legitimacy on those who hold it.

The nurse, from above, continues:
"To me, you (particularly but not exclusively the hierarchy) appear to be a frightened group of men preoccupied with titles, clothing and other religious externals. You seem, with some wonderful and brave exceptions, to pay only lip service to ecumenism and matters of social justice. I would love to see the so-called ‘Princes of the Church’ (Where did all these triumphant, utterly anti-Gospel titles you award yourselves come from?) get rid of the silk, the gold, the Gucci shoes, the ridiculous tall hats, croziers, fancy soutanes etc etc and substitute bare heads and a simple pilgrim’s staff on all liturgical occasions and that might be taken as a small outward sign of your inner acceptance of fundamental Gospel values."
In a similar vein, I continue to observe, and be somewhat entertained by, people who participate in Internet conversations primarily by making conclusive, yet contentious, statements that they deem so self-evidently true that their conclusions do not require supporting evidence.  In addition to suffering from the common affliction of not being able to distinguish which of their thoughts are fact or opinion, such people seem genuinely perplexed by the fact that people exist who do not accept their pronouncements without question.

They participate as if they are Internet Archbishops, who must Explain Things to the meek, credulous, and ignorant herds. Rarely, do they precede their arguments with, "I think that brics are better brac." No. It's always, "Brics are better than bracs."

An authoritative conclusory opinion trying to masquerade as fact, with little or no supporting evidence to back it up. How often are such people taking their cues from the pampered princes above?

What exactly is the connection between power and the sense some people have of their own illusory superiority, their speaking down to people and then acting all incredulous when people disagree or request evidence?

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